28 mars 2008

A French perspective (Responsibilities)

Sorry to compare to France again, but synchronicity strikes right here to give an example of the "critical responsibility against a perverse system".

The French cinema industry isn't doing poorly exactly (the latest French blockbuster, "Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis", a lowbrow comedy, is beating all previous sales records and the yearly audience is growing especially thanks to recent popular French movies), but still there are people to stand up and complain about a lack of diversity, a lack of opportunity and the spoilage of the state subsidies (without which there would be no French cinema).

At last year's Césars (the French Oscars), indie filmmaker Pascale Ferran made her acceptance speech for Best Film of the year (Lady Chatterley) a severe accusation against the governmental policy and the extinction of the middle ground cinema (cited as exemples : Resnais, Chabrol, Rivette, Lelouch, Berri, Costa-Gavras,Téchiné,Tavernier, C. Serreau, Corneau, Miller, Jacquot, Breillat, Carax, Chéreau, Guédiguian, Jolivet, Assayas, C. Denis, Dupeyron,T. Marshall, N. Garcia, Jeunet, Klapisch, Desplechin, Beauvois, Corsini, Kahn, Ferran, Kassovitz, Audiard, Salvadori,Vernoux, Masson, Belvaux, Mazuy, Lvovsky, Podalydès, Jaoui, Ozon, Moll, Cantet, Kechiche) between big budget movies well supported by TV networks and the small budget art films supported by subsidies. She said the gap between these two poles was growing thin which tends to polarize the image we get of cinema into two clear cut alternatives : the entertainment and the "boring".

This lone call had a snowball effect and opened the mouths of everyone. Though quite slow, like with every bureaucratic system, the press relayed the criticism and began to think over the situation. And now an independent interdisciplinary group of filmmakers (Jacques Audiard, Pascale Ferran & Claude Miller), screenwriter (Cécile Vargaftig), producers (Denis Freyd, Arnaud Louvet, Patrick Sobelman & Édouard Weil), distributor (Fabienne Vonier), theatre owner (Stéphane Goudet, Claude-Éric Poiroux & Jean-Jacques Ruttner), international distributor (François Yon) got together (surprisingly no critics or scholars in there) and published a report to analyze the current system and propose some needed modifications (Le Club des 13).

So even if it was ballsy and ungrateful to shout at the academy that just gave her a prize in 2007, the milieu of cinema kinda agreed and opened up to bilateral talks.
Today the newspapers (Le Monde, Libération, Les inrocks, Télérama) mention the news in a supporting way. This becomes a public debate.
Cahiers published the Cesar2007 speech online after having questionned the quantity of films produced in France in the past issues (#618 and #619 notably) then suggested some proposition just before the presidential elections (#622) and interviewed each candidate regarding their cultural agenda (#622).

This is what I'd call "Responsibilities of criticism": socio-political awareness, moral integrity, self-examination, analytical scrutiny and altruism.

The system is benevolent and ultra-protectionist in France : quotas, subsidies, taxes... yet the domestic production only owns around 40% of the market, leaving 45% to Hollywood and more or less 15% to non-Hollywood foreign films (=60% of foreign films allowed on our screens! that's how "ultra-protectionist" we are, compared to the 5% in the USA). But still people working here and benefiting from this system raise awareness and call for more justice, more fairness for everyone, and less abuse of the aids by the prosperous parties who don't need it.

We see that Hollywood screenwriters can solidify around their union to beg for their cut of the internet profits and get a lot of media attention, but could the same thing happen for selfless interests to defend the cultural diversity in their country? I honestly don't know, I'm just asking the question.

20 commentaires:

HarryTuttle a dit…

Serge Toubiana's blog (head of La Cinémathèque) on the Pascale Ferran report: Malaise dans le cinéma français

nitesh a dit…

I wish we had some one like Pascale Ferran gearing up and complain about the lack of originality and redundancy of imagery in Indian Cinema. And the every widening divide between Boring and Entertaining Cinema. I hate this distinction completely. Recently I have been running here and there trying to make my first feature, and this distinction comes into act a number of times when I have meet with Producers. No wonder I too am, looking up for CNC subsidies and various grant for my first feature outside India, even though our Cinema is thriving and growing on leaps on bounds, but even to make a small modest or a meaning ful film one has to look abroad for money, and it’s here I think France plays a crucial and important role in providing various subsidies not only to it’s filmmakers but for filmmakers young and masters across the globe, and I guess without the subsidies which the French Government provides a large works of master, avant-grade, and young filmmakers would never get made. Perhaps, we don’t see Cinema in the same vein as French, we do have huge audience, but who are really illiterate about the medium in general itself.

I have always learned a lot from reading the blog, especially in helping me understand and see films in new light and analyze new corners.

HarryTuttle a dit…

Thanks for the good words and the commentary, nitesh. Welcome in Screenville!

I'm afraid to sound too chauvisnist if I trumpet myself the qualities of the French Cinema system (though as Pascale Ferran points out, we have shortcomings to deal with too!).
But it's true that France does a lot to support auteurs from foreign countries (even American ones! Lynch and Gus Van Sant being recent examples), so what this group of filmmakers protest here against the governmental policy is to protect cultural diversity, not only at home, for French filmmakers, but for all sorts of co-productions helping foreign cinema. Every year we can see in Cannes a striving force of young filmmakers partly or entirely aided by French subsidies.

I'd like to find reliable datas on this. I wonder what is the proportion of foreign films helped by other countries (for production and distribution).

Good luck for your debut film. You could try the Cannes Résidence which recruits first timers to participate in a workshop.

nitesh a dit…

I think short-comings is part of any Endeavour, and I think it’s extremely important to protect this, ‘ cultural diversity’ you talk about, else soon the only things which will be remaining is the song and dances and bombardment of CGI monsters. In India, we had the NFDC fund which once upon a time funded a lot of non-mainstream or Parallel Cinema filmmakers as they were called in 80s and late 90s, however, the NFDC failed to bad management and eventually dried out, some where we lacked to, ‘ Protect’ our own works. However, recently it has rejuvenated again, but then again, the amount of RED TAPISM even in NFDC is something which is hard to fathom.

And I think, the French filmmaker who are standing up for such cause should be supported in all aspects- even from auteur who have benefited from the system outside France, after all, France is the last bastion where Cinema is still considered, perhaps, an art. I don’t know, things may have changed, but that’s what I have always read and imagined.

Thanks for the Cannes link Harry; I have already applied for the next session of the Residence programme. Don’t have too much directorial credit, but yeah scenario and producer may hold the key for me to break into the next session of Cannes Residence.

Thanks again! Cheers!

HarryTuttle a dit…

Bollywood is indeed the only "superpower" equivalent to Hollywood in term of hegemonic machine of self-alimented production. But it's not as hurting the local economy in foreign countries. Actually Bollywood movies deserve to be shown more outside India.

HarryTuttle a dit…

Le Monde : vitalité de la production du cinema français en 2007
- 228 films produced in France in 2007, of which 43 (=18.8%) are foreign co-productions.
- Of the 185 French films, 72 were debut films and 32 were second films (=56.2% of total made by debuting filmmakers!)
- Domestic share of French films of total admissions in French theatres in 2007 = 36,5 %

Libération : Christine Albanel (Minister of culture) comments the "Ferran report".

Télérama : Le coup de gueule du Club des 13, emmené par Pascale Ferran, contre Christine Albanel.
The group of Pascale Ferran comments their unsatisfying meeting with the minister of Culture.

HarryTuttle a dit…

Radio podcast on France culture [FRENCH, 1h]: Rapport sur le cinéma français, Laure Adler interviews Marie Vermillard (filmmaker), François Yon (Export), Jacques Audiard (filmmaker), Stéphane Goudet (critic, Theatre owner) to comment the Pascale Ferran Report.

nitesh a dit…

Bollywood does have the sheer power as of now, with huge influx of money and the every growing audience in and outside India. And at least Hollywood films does not hurt us in the same vein like the national Cinema of so many other countries, where local Cinema has been crippled simply on Hollywood sheer hegemony

As for us, the young filmmakers; we have been over fed with Bollywood masala films, I mean its something hard to digest now, perhaps, people outside India would love what they see, but it’s enough for us. Same ripped off tales, same formula of cut, copy paste, and lot more. Yes, our films have tons of entertainment value. And we are not only successful in India, but outside too, since the Indian diaspora is huge. So, the Producers when release there films outside India, the only target is, Indians. In India, over thousand films are made every year, since we have a strong Industry outside Bollywood down South India; however, everything is just the same. Routine dances, Routine stories, Routine emotions, routine, rituals. Yes, the audiences love it, but they have always been sidelined about something exists beyond what they see. Let see, the faith most of us (young filmmakers) have to give back to the people something more than what Bollywood gives them, in pure honesty, and be successful then it would be interesting. Else I would join the league of similar people here in India who had a dream of making good films, but eventually landed being just another brick in the wall.

Surprising, to see those numbers of debut and second feature films from debuting directors, something one can also see in the Korean film Industry. Not much of that happens here in India, perhaps its due to the lack of subsidies and funds. The domestic share of French Films just holds as 36.5% the rest held by Hollywood? What is the quality of films from the current generation of French filmmakers, since this is something most of us aren't aware about?

PS: Harry any suggestion for a French actress (25-35) who could possibly play a femmae fatale.

HarryTuttle a dit…

What I'm saying is that Bollywood is as good at producing good quality popular movies as Hollywood, that would please the mass audience in any country. Why should the genre-lover audience worldwide should only have the choice between Hollywood imports or pale local imitations? Indian genre or Korean genre are at least as good as Hollywood blockbusters. It's just that Hollywood has a better marketing machine.

Quality art films is another niche altogether. I understand it should be very difficult to breakthrough in a market so uniformised indeed. Just like Satyajit Ray opened an alternative cinema back in his days.

The flipside of this high number of debut films in France is that it also means some filmmakers never make a second or third film. There is not as much continuity in the construction of a coherent oeuvre.

French Femme Fatale suggestions : Laëticia Casta, Marion Cotillard, Ludivine Sagnier, Hélène de Fougerolles, Bérénice Bejo, Sandrine Kiberlain, Eva Green, Emma De Caunes, Linda Hardy, Clotilde Hesme, Adriana Karembeu, Monica Bellucci, Anna Mouglalis, Noémie Lenoir, Inès Sastre, Mélanie Thierry, Ophélie Winter

Do you know this website : http://www.actricesdefrance.org/

nitesh a dit…
Ce commentaire a été supprimé par l'auteur.
nitesh a dit…

The question of choice reminds me a Godard interview I had read, where he talked about the the choice of being given a chance to watch a bad Hollywood film as much as any other.

Korean genre cinema are not only up there in technical virtuosity, but also are made with some form of intelligence(the prime difference between Bollywood Genre Cinema and Korean)we bluntly plagiarize, they create. I think they are able to blend a form of art and entertainment, a certain balance. A lot of Korean director are commercially successful and critically acclaimed which is pretty remarkable.

Thanks for the list and the website(wish I knew a little more french) Harry, will go through the profile and picture of the list you mentioned. Hope I can find the character/face I'm looking for.

HarryTuttle a dit…

But Godard doesn't always speak the truth... he's just a provocateur!
I prefer to watch a bad foreign film than a good Hollywood movie. If only for the sake of discovering a taste we don't already know by heart. ;)

So you get to cast hot french chicks? Why on Earth am I not a filmmaker???

nitesh a dit…

Quite true Harry about Godard being a provocateur, just got a copy of Pierrot Le Fou(Ciretrion Disc Set), and an interviewer asked him the same at the Venice Film Festival in 1965:

Q: Jean Luc Godard are you a provocateur?

Godard: But it is... (Smiles)

Interviewer: No, you can provoke admiration or surprise as well as anger

Godard: In that sense, sure, to provoke an event, but an agent provocateur, no

Interviewer: No, for example you like to startle people

Godard (shrugs)... No really, but if people are half-asleep, a loud noise will startle them; if they are awake it wouldn't at all.

I have always found watching and reading Godard’s interviews(the current one, I'm reading is an exchange between Jean Luc Godard& Youssef Ishaghpour(Cinema) fascinating, interesting, witty, provoking and many more adjectives and superlatives, even though one may not agree with Godard notions, but it's still makes one look at things, from a different point of view.

Hot French Chicks :) I hope too, since, it all depends on the great, 'funds', but for sure a European actress that's how I saw the film when I wrote the scenario/treatment. Beside without a hot, erotic, femmae fatale, who whips and shakes this Indian film which I, ' hope' to make, things just want be complete and Provoked. Currently reworking on the new drafts of the scenario, and hoping to get funds from Hubert Bals, PIFF, and CNC in August. (Fingers crossed) :)

Have you never given filmmaking a shot? I mean, though I really learn and enjoy reading your criticism, no flattery here, but seriously it allows one to look at things and understand lot of things better. For eg: the recent aetuerism discussion on Girish’s blog or on contemplative cinema. :)

nitesh a dit…

An interesting piece regarding the current French Cinema standing, which builds upon a lot of points you have talked about Harry. I think Club 13 which states that middle film needs more funding, sounds pretty valid, but then again, taxing soda and pop corn? And ideas such as stripping subsidies of film over two million viewers and increasing subsidies for films with less than a million viewers doesn't sound very feasible.


HarryTuttle a dit…

Thank you for that link, I didn't know about it. The guy sounds quite cynical, and doesn't seem to grasp the point of risk-taking-reward subsidies. He thinks that only a commercial success, thus a crowd approval, should reward investors with subsidies.
Why should subsidies go to successful movies that don't need any financial help to survive?
Our system is meant to HELP movies without money, movies that struggle to find enough funds by themselves, movies that take risks because they use difficult subjects and forms.

Taxing pop corn sounds ludicrous/unrelated indeed, but that's how theatres make most profits! through exploitation of an continuous flow of movie novelty on their screens. They don't care which movie is on anymore, as long as the audience keeps coming to buy pop corn! How can you expect these people to feel responsible for "quality cinema"? And they get subsidies too for showing a quota of "art-films". It's just to tax their profits, to have them contribute to the aid program. It doesn't matter if it's the pop corn or a nominal tax...

HarryTuttle a dit…

I thought a couple of films last year almost aborted because of hubert Balsan's sudden death... Are they still funding films?

As for filmmaking, I lost my illusions some times ago. I don't have your hope and your ambition to get into the race of building a commercial project. As long as I can watch great masters making films, I don't feel the need to make one myself.

p.s. in which country are you going to shoot your film with a French actress? I guess it does help to find French funds to have her onboard. ;)

nitesh a dit…
Ce commentaire a été supprimé par l'auteur.
nitesh a dit…

They don't care which movie is on anymore, as long as the audience keeps coming to buy pop corn! How can you expect these people to feel responsible for "quality cinema"? And they get subsidies too for showing a quota of "art-films". It's just to tax their profits, to have them contribute to the aid program. It doesn't matter if it's the pop corn or a nominal tax...

That is a revelation; you mean that the theatres get subsidies to show Art films? I think, the French have always sought out helping, “ Quality Cinema”, and the current figures shows that new talent are promoted. And even at the grassroots level a lot of student films are funded too. A friend of mine, studying Cinema in Paris, has currently applied for some funds from Cite U, even though it may be nominal, but at least that encouragement and push to promote more than just commercial films and young talents is vital. Which I think is remarkable for French Cinema, and how it has continued to produce this potpourri of films; commercial, art, experimental.

I’m not sure about the Death of Hubert bad, since last year about July at the Osian film festival in India I had interacted with the fund supervisor((she was here as part of the Talent Campus), so as far as I believe the funds have got smaller, but has not died out for sure.

p.s. in which country are you going to shoot your film with a French actress? I guess it does help to find French funds to have her onboard. ;)

There are two vital location one is Patna( a small town from where I come in India) and the other Paris, my deal is to have a French Cinematographer, and a French actress, both are vital, since I wont go ahead without any one of them. And I want to do the Post-Production in Paris itself. But till now I haven’t managed to find a Production house with whom I can have a dialogue in Paris, rather it’s happening in Brussels now(talks for Co-Producer), but still I’m hopeful, to have a French Co-producer, since the importance of promoting local industry is there: Shooting in Paris( all scenes of the French Actress), Post- Production, and French Cinematographer( I was thinking of Agnes Godard, Tetsuo Nagata, Eric Gautier(well it's a dream, I think, as he would be too costly or busy), or people like Robby Muller or William Lubitsnchkey, any suggestion on this?

Earlier I was (and still I’m) hoping if I can get Mark Ping Bing Li.

Harry any idea on what are the prospect of establishing a Production House/ Company in Paris, I mean would it better the prospect to consolidate funds for regional French Cinema and Co-Production? Any suggestion or idea would be welcome, since I'm pretty keen on this, and don't know where to look for advice. :)

HarryTuttle a dit…

Commercial cinema survives without subsidies in other countries. There is no reason why a multiplex (playing successful blockbusters in majority) should get any help. Aid should benefit Arthouses that cannot survive without subsidies because they are showing risky films that make little benefits.

Well I don't know anything about insider tips to make a movie. I prefer the artistic side to the production side.
Though I've noticed often times foreign co-productions negotiate to have part of the production done by French companies, to make the subsidies help the industry at home too. Like you said, the post-production, or the print, or the sound design, or the shooting location. That's when there is no proper cinema industry in the country of origin.
You can access more aids (the ones reserved to French cinema) at various levels if it will benefit local French companies of course.

HarryTuttle a dit…

"Le devis moyen par film d'initiative française diminue, s'établissant à 5,18 millions d'euros au premier semestre 2010, contre 6,26 millions d'euros sur la même période en 2009. La part des films à gros budgets a chuté (9,9 % des films ont un devis supérieur à 10 millions, contre 17,3 % en 2009), tandis que la part des "moyens budgets", entre 4 et 7 millions d'euros, augmente (de 22 % des devis en 2009 à 31 % en 2010)."

Le Monde, 7 Sept 2010